How Biases Affect RTC Advocates

In Restorationist Textual Criticism, Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

In Peter Gurry’s The Appeal to the Autograph in Early Protestant Theology he attempts to discuss the issue of the Reformers and whether or not they appeal to the autographs.  He does so poorly.  However, his doing so provides us with an opportunity to see how the unbiblical biases of RTC Advocates influence and pervert their understanding of history.

In his first three paragraphs he fails to mention that the Reformers did not hold to inerrancy, but instead held to infallibility.  He also fails to provide the significant difference between these two doctrines:  inerrancy as originated by Warfield applies to the autographs alone while infallibility as used by the Reformers applies to both the autographs and the providentially preserved copies of the same called apographs.  This is an important distinction that he misses.

Gurry first attempts to claim that prior to Wairfield & Hodge, he confuses Charles & A.A. as it was the latter who affirmed the novel doctrine of inerrancy with Warfield, that “Scholars in the 19th century were restricting inspiration and inerrancy to the autographs well before Hodge and Warfield (examples here).”  However, if he had read Letis’ Chapter 3 in his Ecclesiastical Text entitled, “The Language of Biblical Authority:  From Protestant Orthodoxy to Evangelical Equivocation”, he would know that prior to Warfield’s development of the doctrine, which predates Charles Briggs’ heresy trial, that the doctrine of “inerrancy” was not being restricted “to the autographs well before Hodge and Warfield”, as it didn’t exist until formulated by Warfield.  If Gurry had read Letis he would have found this sentence in Chapter 3 under 2. B. B. Warfield (1851-1921), “In his[Briggs] reply to the formal charges brought against him which were based on Warfield’s consensus (which had by this time become the accepted view within the American Presbyterian Church) as to what the Westminster divines taught in their Confession, Briggs replied in the following defiant terms…”  This is only the beginning of Gurry’s slipshod reasoning.

Let’s look at the next paragraph for even more examples:

But is there something to Muller’s point that the post-Reformation debates often focused on language (Greek vs. Latin and Hebrew vs. Greek/Latin) rather than textual form (autograph vs. copy)? I think there is. You can see this in the Westminster Confession of Faith (sec. I.VIII) which is not really concerned with Scripture’s original wording but rather Scripture’s original language. This is how the language of “authentical” was regularly used by Protestants as seen clearly in William Whitaker’s 1588 Disputation, question 2.

This point of Muller’s only exists in Gurry’s mind due to his unargued biases against the Biblical and Reformed view of Scripture.  There is nothing in WCF 1.8 that supports his claim that they were “not really concerned with Scripture’s original wording but rather Scripture’s original language.”  His claim is absurd as WCF 1.8 is talking about both the original languages and the wording of the autographic texts which by God’s “singular care and providence [were] kept pure in all ages”.  One must be completely obtuse to miss the implications of such clear wording.  Furthermore, if Gurry had read the Reformed writings upon which Chapter one was based and the writings of the Reformers concerning these doctrines he would know how ludicrous his claims are.  Below you’ll find 1.8

8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical;a so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them.b But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them,c therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,d that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner,e and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.f

a. Mat 5:18. • b. Isa 8:20John 5:3946Acts 15:15. • c. John 5:39. • d. 1 Cor 14:6911-122427-28. • e. Col 3:16. • f. Rom 15:4.

But what about his claim about the term “authentical” used by Whitaker in his Disputations?  His link is only to the first page of Question II.  Like his previous claims, it has no substance.  One can read every instance of “authentic” between pages 110 and 275 and search in vain for Whitaker making any such distinction between the original wording and the authentic Greek & Hebrew texts.  The two go hand in hand with the Reformers. (As an aside, and another example of Gurry’s sloppiness, the word “authentical” isn’t mentioned in Q.II.  It’s mentioned here under Q.III.)

We find this same pushing of his bias in his comments on the quotes he provides from  Synopsis Purioris Theologiae

In both paragraphs the overriding concern is clearly linguistic. The Synopsis defends translations as good and useful but makes sure to clarify that this does not mean that translations trump the “authentic” Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.

And yet again we can see even from the quotes, that there is no distinction being made between the the languages of the authentic text and their content.  This distinction only exists in the mind of Peter Gurry who fails to see that the Reformers did not believe in some phantasm of Scripture yet to exist.  They stated clearly that the Greek & Hebrew texts they considered authentic were the logical equivalent of the autographic Greek & Hebrew texts.  Their authenticity and authority was due in part to the fact that the originally inspired autographic text had been kept pure in all ages by God’s singular care and providence.  In other words, the authentic texts of the Reformers were considered by them to be equivalent to the autographic texts.  So when you pick up one of their authentic Greek or Hebrew texts, you are holding in the view of the Reformers the autographic text.

In his penultimate paragraph we see his bias on full display:

So, why can they so freely conflate “autograph” with “copy”? I suspect it’s simply a reflection of the time. The main issue then wasn’t variation in the Greek New Testament manuscripts, but rather variation between the versions—the Greek text as they knew it and the Vulgate text as endorsed by Trent. In other words, the variants they knew of were so few and far between that they did not demand much by way of theological explanation especially when Roman Catholic scholars were busy pressing the differences between the Greek and the Latin text.

He again misses the mark completely.  The issue of the time wasn’t over “variants between Versions”, as if the Greek text is just a version, but it was over ultimate authority.  Was God revealed in the authentic Greek & Hebrew texts the ultimate epistemic authority?  Or was the Roman Catholic Church that authority?  To the Reformers, Scripture is self-authorizing (αυτοπιστος), but to the Papists, the Papal Magisterium was the authority behind the Vulgate. For someone with a PhD from Cambridge, such blunders are deplorable.  Hopefully Gurry’s reasoning doesn’t reflect the condition of Cambridge.  If so, then my how the mighty have fallen.


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